Spending time immersed in nature is easily accomplished with a long or short hike. Being in a forest or exploring a lake shoreline are stress-reducing, morale-boosting activities that help stabilize emotions and provide mental clarity.
According to the Child Mind Institute, “In natural environments, we practice an effortless type of attention known as soft fascination that creates feelings of pleasure, not fatigue.” This is why hiking in a wild setting away from traffic and urban distractions works better to reduce stress and fatigue. (Learn more: “Why Kids Need to Spend Time in Nature“)
Try these Inland Northwest hikes that can be tailored for different hiking abilities. Explore a new trail and find some unplugged, wild serenity this spring.
- McKenzie Conservation Area: Explore the 2-mile, self-guided Geology Walking Tour, which includes Turtle Rock, at this conservation area near Newman Lake. Spokanecounty.org.
- James T. Slavin Conservation Area: Easy, flat trails here will inspire kids to run and explore this area southwest of the city, off Highway 195. Explore rolling pastures, grassy meadows and wetlands, lake and pond shorelines, and pine and fir forest. Look for wildflowers, waterfowl, and other wildlife. Spokanecounty.org.
- High Drive Bluff: Located on the west edge of Spokane’s South Hill, this designated natural area features ponderosa pine forests and bunchgrass meadows. Three trails that are good for kids are Polly Judd, Murungu’s, and Ponderosa—each one traverses the steep hillside without too much elevation loss and gain. All are accessible from the trailhead at S. Cedar Street & 29th Ave. There are another five trailheads, including Polly Judd Park which has a playground. Use the map from Friendsofthebluff.org.
- Dishman Hills: Pond Loop Trail and Deep Ravine Loop Trail are two easy hiking routes, recommended by Spokane mom and OTO contributor Carol Corbin. Basalt rock and water features will engage kids’ interest and curiosity. Start from Camp Caro, where there is a kiosk trail map, restrooms, and playground. Dishmanhills.org.
- Blue Creek Recreation Site: Located within Wallace Forest Conservation Area, this site is managed by U.S. Bureau of Land Management and has nearly 5 miles of trails with two trailheads. For hiking with young children, start from the day use/picnic area to hike out and back along the Blue Trail. Or start hiking on the Blue Trail from the trailhead on Yellowstone Trail Road. Some trails may still be closed in March 2021 because of an ongoing forest management project. Blm.gov.
- Fernan Lake Natural Area: Hiking trails on Potlatch Hill are still a work-in-progress, but so far there are three short loops. More info at Cdaid.org.
- Pend d’ Oreille Bay Trail: Recommended by Sandpoint mom and OTO contributor Ammi Midstokke, this flat, out-and-back 3-mile trail—simply called Bay Trail by locals—travels along Lake Pend Oreille from City Beach. Pobtrail.org.
- Mineral Point Trail: Midstokke also recommends this popular national forest trail south of Sandpoint for scenic views of Lake Pend Oreille. The point-to-point Mineral Point Trail #82 is 2.1 miles with the southern trailhead at Green Bay Campground. Fs.usda.gov.
Want to learn about more recommended hiking destinations for kids and families? Check out these stories from our archives.
- Best Hiking Trails for Kids & Strollers (April 2018)
- 5 Favorite Family Hikes for Lakeside Fun Near Spokane (April 2019)
- Hiking with Dogs & Family Pets (June 2018)
- Hiking for Huckleberries with Kids (April 2020)
- Downtown Spokane’s Urban Wildlife Hikes (May 2017)
- Family Trail Adventures Along the Spokane River (May 2016)
[Feature Photo: Hiking at Slavin Conservation Area. Photo: Amy McCaffree]